Your Chamber At Work: Impact Fees And A Junk Ordinance

Monday night, the Wakulla Board of County Commissioners convened and acted upon two significant ordinances that would have affected the business climate of our county: impact fees and a junk ordinance.

The debate over impact fees imposed on new commercial and residential growth has gone on for years with a passion that, at times, divides our county. But in these tough times these fees are seen by the Chamber and its businesses as an impediment to economic recovery and that is why we let our voice be heard at last night’s meeting. President John Shuff strongly criticized a Commissioner’s recent opinion piece in the Wakulla News on a point-by-point basis particularly on the unsubstantiated and rhetorical claim that “growth does not pay its way” as cited in “numerous studies”. Government and Commerce Committee Chair Ralph Thomas also stood to be heard before the Board and simplified the argument saying that “you are either for growth or against it”. Before bringing the matter to a vote we were highly encouraged by Chairman Stewart’s strong affirmation that he “wants to remove any obstacle to commercial growth”. After much discussion the Board voted 4 to 1 in favor of amending the County’s existing comprehensive impact fee ordinance and, thus, zeroing-out impact fees for now.

When the original “junk” ordinance was brought to Ralph Thomas’ attention there was considerable language in it he thought was disturbing and overreaching. Without pause he brought it before his Chamber Government and Commerce committee for review. After much discussion with members Paul Johnson and Chuck Robinson they had a list of questions for the County’s Code Enforcement division in regards to the proposed ordinance and a meeting with Code Enforcement Office Jaime Baze was arranged. The meeting between the committee and Ms. Baze was quite a success and the Chambers’ suggested changes and clarifications in the proposed ordinance that came before the Board of County Commissioners proved fair to Wakulla county businesses, citizens and government officials. The “junk” ordinance passed unanimously and serves as a great example of how the Chamber can partner with local government to improve the Wakulla community as a whole.

We’re off to a great start in 2011. Let’s keep working hard, business-to-business and neighbor-to-neighbor, to improve the every day lives of everyone here in Wakulla county!